Ragnar Frisch

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Ragnar Frisch
Uio frisch 2006 0025.jpg
Ragnar Anton Kittil Frisch

(1895-03-03)3 March 1895
Died31 January 1973(1973-01-31) (aged 77)
Nationality Norway
Alma mater University of Oslo
Known for Econometrics
Production theory
Awards Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1969)
Scientific career
Fields Economics
Institutions University of Oslo
Doctoral students Olav Reiersøl
Trygve Haavelmo [1]

Ragnar Anton Kittil Frisch (3 March 1895 – 31 January 1973) was a Norwegian economist and the co-recipient of the first Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969 (with Jan Tinbergen). He is known for being one of the founders of the discipline of econometrics, and for coining the widely used term pair macroeconomics/microeconomics in 1933.


Frisch was appointed by the King-in-Council as Professor of Economics and Statistics at the Faculty of Law, The Royal Frederick University in 1931. He served as the Dean of the Faculty of Law 1942–1943. Today, the Frisch Centre at the University of Oslo is named in his honour. [2]


Family and education

Ragnar Frisch's father, Anton Frisch (1865-1928), goldsmith in Oslo, and a member of the Frisch family of silver miners and goldsmiths Anton Frisch (1865-1928).jpg
Ragnar Frisch's father, Anton Frisch (1865–1928), goldsmith in Oslo, and a member of the Frisch family of silver miners and goldsmiths

Ragnar Frisch [3] was born on 3 March 1895 in Christiania as the son of gold- and silversmith Anton Frisch and Ragna Fredrikke Frisch (née Kittilsen). The Frisch family had emigrated from Germany to Kongsberg in Norway in the 17th century and his ancestors had worked for the Kongsberg Silver Mines for generations; [4] Ragnar's grandfather Antonius Frisch had become a goldsmith in Christiania in 1856. His family had thus worked with precious metals like silver and gold for at least 300 years.

Being expected to continue his family business, Frisch became an apprentice in the David Andersen workshop in Oslo. However at his mother's advice, while doing his apprenticeship Frisch also started studying at the Royal Frederick University. His chosen topic was economics, as it seemed to be "the shortest and easiest study" available at the university, [3] and passed his degree in 1919. In 1920 he also passed his handicraftsman tests and became a partner in his father's workshop.

Early career and further education

In 1921 Frisch received a fellowship from the university which enabled him to spend three years studying economics and mathematics in France and England. After his return to Norway, in 1923, although the family's business was having difficulties, he continued his scientific activity, believing that research, not jewellery, was his real calling. [5] He published a few papers about probability theory, started teaching at the University of Oslo during 1925 and, in 1926, he obtained the Dr. Philos. degree with a thesis in mathematical statistics.

Also in 1926, Frisch published an article [6] outlining his view that economics should follow the same path towards theoretical and empirical quantization that other sciences, especially physics, had followed. During the same year, he published his seminal article "Sur un problème d'économie pure" starting the implementation of his own quantization programme. The article offered theoretical axiomatizations which result in a precise specification of both ordinal and cardinal utility, followed by an empirical estimation of the cardinal specification. Frisch also started lecturing a course on production theory, introducing a mathematization of the subject.

Frisch received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to visit the United States in 1927. There, seeking other economists interested in the new mathematical and statistical approaches to economics, he associated with Irving Fisher, Wesley Clair Mitchell, Allyn Young and Henry Schultz. He wrote a paper analyzing the role of investment in explaining economic fluctuations. Wesley Mitchell, who had just written a book on business cycles, popularized Frisch's paper which was introducing new advanced methods. [5]

Later career

Although his fellowship was extended to travel to Italy and France, the next year Frisch had to return to Norway because of his father's death. He spent one year to modernize and recapitalize his family's workshop by selling family assets and to find a jeweller to manage the business for him. Then he resumed academic work, in 1928 being appointed Associate Professor of statistics and economics at the Oslo University. During 1927 and 1928 Frisch published a series of articles on the statistics of time series. In 1929 he published his first important essay on econometric methodology, "Correlation and scatter in statistical variables", [7] followed in the same year by "Statics and dynamics in economic theory", which introduced dynamics in economic analysis. [8]

Frisch became a full Professor at the university in 1931. He also founded at the university the Rockefeller-funded Institute of Economics in 1932 and became its Director of Research.

Ragnar Frisch received the Antonio Feltrinelli prize from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in 1961 and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969 (awarded jointly with Jan Tinbergen) for "having developed and applied dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes". [9]

During the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany Frisch was imprisoned in Bredtveit concentration camp from 17 October 1943, then in Berg concentration camp from 22 November 1943, then in Grini detention camp from 9 December 1943 to 8 October 1944. [10]


Frisch married Marie Smedal in 1920 and they had a daughter, Ragna (b. 1938 [11] ). His granddaughter, Nadia Hasnaoui (Ragna's child), became a Norwegian television performer. After his first wife died in 1952, he remarried in 1953 with childhood friend Astrid Johannessen. [3] who died in 1980.


Frisch was one of the founders of economics as a modern science. He made a number of significant advances in the field of economics and coined a number of new words including econometrics and macroeconomics. His 1926 paper on consumer theory helped set up Neo-Walrasian research. He formalized production theory, especially in addressing nonallocable inputs leading to jointness, meaning less than full control, in production processes (see esp. Chapters 14 and 15). [12]

In econometrics he worked on time series (1927) and linear regression analysis (1934). With Frederick V. Waugh, he introduced the celebrated Frisch–Waugh theorem ( Econometrica 1933) (sometimes referred to as the Frisch–Waugh–Lovell theorem). In oligopoly theory he developed the conjectural variation approach. Frisch also is credited with introducing the term "model" in its modern economic sense by Paul Samuelson, based on a 1930 Yale University lecture. [13]

His 1933 work on impulse-propagation business cycles became one of the principles of modern New Classical business cycle theory. He also helped introduce econometric modeling to government economic planning and accounting.

He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society and editor of Econometrica for over twenty years. The Frisch Medal, so named in his honor, is given every two years for the best paper published in the aforementioned Econometrica in the previous five years.

Frisch's most important hobby was bee-keeping, for which Frisch performed genetic studies.

Selected publications

There is a bibliography of Frisch's writings up to 1960 in

and there is a collection of selected essays

Related Research Articles

Econometrics is the application of statistical methods to economic data in order to give empirical content to economic relationships. More precisely, it is "the quantitative analysis of actual economic phenomena based on the concurrent development of theory and observation, related by appropriate methods of inference". An introductory economics textbook describes econometrics as allowing economists "to sift through mountains of data to extract simple relationships". The first known use of the term "econometrics" was by Polish economist Paweł Ciompa in 1910. Jan Tinbergen is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of econometrics. Ragnar Frisch is credited with coining the term in the sense in which it is used today.

Jan Tinbergen Dutch economist

Jan Tinbergen was an important Dutch economist. He was awarded the first Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969, which he shared with Ragnar Frisch for having developed and applied dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential economists of the 20th century and one of the founding fathers of econometrics. It has been argued that the development of the first macroeconometric models, the solution of the identification problem, and the understanding of dynamic models are his three most important legacies to econometrics. Tinbergen was a founding trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. In 1945, he founded the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) and was the agency's first director.

Herman Ole Andreas Wold was a Norwegian-born econometrician and statistician who had a long career in Sweden. Wold was known for his work in mathematical economics, in time series analysis, and in econometric statistics.

Econometrica is a peer-reviewed academic journal of economics, publishing articles in many areas of economics, especially econometrics. It is published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Econometric Society. The current editor-in-chief is Guido Imbens.

Clive Granger British Economist

Sir Clive William John Granger was a British econometrician known for his contributions to non-linear time series. He taught in Britain, at the University of Nottingham and in the United States, at the University of California, San Diego. In 2003, Granger was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, in recognition of the contributions that he and his co-winner, Robert F. Engle, had made to the analysis of time series data. This work fundamentally changed the way in which economists analyse financial and macroeconomic data. Sir Clive Granger often refers to his time at HPH Claymore which he claims to be one of his main sources of inspiration, knowledge and bravery.

Trygve Haavelmo Norwegian economist and econometrician

Trygve Magnus Haavelmo, born in Skedsmo, Norway, was an economist whose research interests centered on econometrics. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1989.

Jan Mossin (1936–1987) was a Norwegian economist. Born in Oslo, he graduated with a siv.øk. degree from the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in 1959. After a couple of years in business, he started his PhD studies in the spring semester of 1962 at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Econometric Society is an international society of academic economists interested in applying statistical tools to their field. It is an independent organization with no connections to societies of professional mathematicians or statisticians. It was founded on December 29, 1930, at the Stalton Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. As of 2014, there are about 700 Elected Fellows of the Econometric Society, making it one of the most prevalent research affiliations. New fellows are elected each year by the current fellows.

In econometrics, the Frisch–Waugh–Lovell (FWL) theorem is named after the econometricians Ragnar Frisch, Frederick V. Waugh, and Michael C. Lovell.

Olav Reiersøl was a Norwegian statistician and econometrician, who made several substantial contributions to econometrics and statistics. His works on identifiability and instrumental variables are standard references both in econometrics and statistics, and his work on genetic algebras are frequently cited in genetics.

Lars Peter Hansen American economist

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The Frisch Medal is an award in economics given by the Econometric Society. It is awarded every two years for empirical or theoretical applied research published in Econometrica during the previous five years. The award was named in honor of Ragnar Frisch, first co-recipient of the Nobel prize in economics and editor of Econometrica from 1933 to 1954. In the opinion of Rich Jensen, Gilbert F. Schaefer Professor of Economics and chairperson of the Department of Economics of the University of Notre Dame, "The Frisch medal is not only one of the top three prizes in the field of economics, but also the most prestigious 'best article' award in the profession". Five Frisch medal winners have also won the Nobel Prize.

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Henry Schultz was an American economist, statistician, and one of the founders of econometrics. Paul Samuelson named Schultz as one of the several "American saints in economics" born after 1860.

Frisch family

Frisch is a Norwegian family of German origin, of which many members were associated with the Kongsberg Silver Mines for several centuries since the 17th century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, family members were noted as goldsmiths in Oslo. Its most famous member is Ragnar Frisch, the first Nobel laureate in economics.

Statistical alchemy was a term originated by John Maynard Keynes to describe econometrics in 1939.

Charles Frederick Roos was an American economist who made contributions to mathematical economics. He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society together with American economist Irving Fisher and Norwegian economist Ragnar Frisch in 1930. He served as Secretary-Treasurer during the first year of the Society and was elected as President in 1948. He was director of research of the Cowles Commission from September 1934 to January 1937.


  1. Ragnar Frisch on Econometree
  2. "Forside - Frischsenteret".
  3. 1 2 3 Frisch, Ragnar, "Autobiography", published in Nobel Lectures, Economics 1969–1980, Editor Assar Lindbeck, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1992
  4. Huhnhäuser, Alfred (1944). Die deutsche Einwanderung in Kongsberg. Beiträge zur Geschichte des Deutschtums in Norwegen. Oslo.
  5. 1 2 Olav Bjerkholt (2000), "A turning point in the development of Norwegian economics – the establishment of the University Institute of Economics in 1932". Memorandum No 36/2000, University of Oslo
  6. "Quantitative formulation of the laws of economic theory" (see Selected Publications)
  7. J. W. (1931). "Frisch (Ragnar): Correlation and Scatter in Statistical Variables". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. 94 (1): 95–98. JSTOR   2341822.
  8. See Selected Publications
  9. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1969
  10. Ottosen, Kristian, ed. (2004). Nordmenn i fangenskap 1940–1945 (in Norwegian) (2nd ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. p. 226. ISBN   978-82-15-00288-0.
  11. Bjerkholt, Olav. "Ragnar Frisch 1895-1995" (PDF). Statistics Norway Research Department.
  12. Frisch, Ragnar (1965). Theory of Production. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally and Company.
  13. Bjerkholt, Olav (September 2014). "Ragnar Frisch and the Postwar Norwegian Economy: A Critical Comment on Sæther and Eriksen" (PDF). Econ Journal Watch. 11 (3): 297–312. Retrieved November 8, 2014.

Further reading

Academic offices
Preceded by
Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Oslo
Succeeded by
New creation Laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
Served alongside: Jan Tinbergen
Succeeded by
Paul A. Samuelson